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Paul WRANITZKY (1756–1808)
Orchestral Works • 2
Der Schreiner – Overture (1799) [4:19]
in d minor ‘La Tempesta’ (before 1795) [27:50]
in A Op.16/2 (pub. 1791) [18:01]
in F Op.33/3 (pub. 1798) [23:30]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Marek Štilec
World premiere recordings
rec. 25–29 November 2019, Dukla Culture House Pardubice, Czech Republic
The scores used for these recordings are available for free download at
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview
NAXOS 8.574255 [73:50]

We have been coming to realise that there are more talented composers who were contemporary with or who just preceded Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven than we imagined, and Naxos have not been backward in bringing us recordings to prove it. With this second release in the Wrantizky series, they are in many senses returning to their early days, when they brought us not just popular classics but ground-breaking recordings of eighteenth-century music, all at a super-budget price of £3.99. To take just one example, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf had been just a name – if that – to most of us before Naxos took up his cause. If you didn’t invest in their recordings of his music, it’s not too late: a good place to start would be with his Symphonies after Ovid’s Metamorphoses (8.553368 and 8.553369).

That was part of a wider Naxos project entitled ‘The Eighteenth-Century Symphony’ which contained several valuable recordings. Hanspeter Gmür and the Failoni Orchestra, Budapest, contributed several other valuable instalments, such as JC Bach’s Sinfonias, Op.18/1-6 on 8.553367, an alternative to the two works from the set recorded by the Academy of Ancient Music and Simon Standage on Chandos CHAN0713X – review – though, with the latter now at mid-price, the economic advantage is less than before.

Naxos CDs no longer sell for £3.99, but they remain good value at around £7.50 – avoid dealers who ask more – with lossless downloads available for around £5.40, the latter always complete with pdf booklet, which is not always the case with other labels. Those Dittersdorf recordings were made with the Failoni Orchestra; it was one of the characteristics of their early releases that they used lesser-known orchestras, but allowed plenty of practice time. Now, as with Volume 1, they have returned to Central Europe for Wranitzky, where he is also known by his Moravian name as Pavel Vranickı.

I missed Volume 1 when it was released a few months ago on 8.574227 but I caught up with it via Naxos B2B service and enjoyed hearing it, agreeing with Rob Barnett, who thought that it enhanced the standing of this unfamiliar composer – review. Both volumes contain world premiere recordings and help to further an appreciation of a composer otherwise available mainly from the half-completed Chandos series of recordings ‘Contemporaries of Mozart’.  A Supraphon 2-CD set (SU38752) and a CPO SACD (777054-2 – review) are also well worth investigating.

Three of his symphonies remain available in fine performances on CHAN9916, also in an inexpensive 5-CD set CHAN10628X, with Krommer, Carl Stamitz, Pleyel and Kozeluch. Chandos assembled the whole of the series on USB CHUSB0018, also in two halves, with the Wranitzky on CHUSB0002, from for £80 – see May 2011/2. And for more information, there’s the Wranitzky project, which offers the scores of some of his music:

The more I hear of Wranitzky’s music, the more I like it, yet he didn’t even warrant a separate entry in the last complete (2010) edition of the Penguin Guide, and his name is also absent from the last edition of the Gramophone Classical Music Guide (2012), though the Chandos recording was available before either was published. Even having heard the Chandos recording, I expected to be writing that this is interesting and entertaining music, but not quite the equal of Haydn, yet in some movements one might almost be listening to Haydn or even early Mozart.

After the Overture to Der Schreiner (the carpenter) Naxos give us a symphony so similar in style to Haydn’s Sturm und Drang manner that I could easily have been fooled into hearing it on the radio and thinking it was, indeed, a rediscovered Haydn symphony from that period. It’s the most striking of the three symphonies included here, so it’s not surprising that it has inspired the cover depiction of a shipwreck. Storm at sea had already been depicted by Vivaldi (RV253). I had some reservations about all the ‘special effects’ called upon by Pat Kopatchinskaja on her recent recording of La tempesta di mare (Alpha 264 – review), but the development of the orchestra meant that Wranitzky’s is even more powerful without any special effects.

As Wranitzky’s storm subsides, the birds start to sing and the symphony ends with an exuberant coda which anticipates the close of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony from more than 10 years later. It’s amazing that this symphony exists only in manuscript, was apparently never published, and is only now receiving its first recording.

The Grande Symphonie in c minor, Op.31, on the CPO recording, which I couldn’t resist listening to immediately afterwards, spreads its net even wider, from the French Revolution via the Death of Louis XVI and war with the allies to the declaration of peace. If the Storm symphony anticipates Beethoven, this symphony anticipates one of the latter’s other works, Wellington’s Victory, a minor work which I have always had a soft spot for.

If the other symphonies are not quite as striking as La Tempesta or the Grande symphonie on CPO, there’s much to enjoy in them, not least the variations on two well-known tunes in Op.33/3: Freut euch des Lebens in the slow movement and O du Lieber Augustin in the trio of the third movement. The latter sounds much more jaunty than the original Augustin can have felt, who, on a drunken night fell into a plague pit and had to be hauled out the next morning, complete with his bagpipes.

Naxos always got the best out of these lesser-known orchestras by giving them generous rehearsal time. I presume that to have been the case here again. Without any benchmarks for comparison, it certainly seems to me that these recordings are unlikely to be bettered, and the recording quality and presentation are first-rate. I was going to say that if you fancy a trip down a side street, this recording is well worth investing in. However, it’s more than that; far from being a detour off the beaten track, Wranitzky’s music will take you along the main Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven high road.   As I close this review, I note that Volume 3 is imminent from the same team.

Brian Wilson

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